When it comes to the renewable energy transition, satellites can help. We’ve taken a look at a few case studies.
Satellites can contribute to advancing environmental and climate protection. Especially when it comes to getting an overview of large areas of land or water, images from space are an important tool. They can also be a great advantage in the expansion of renewable energies.
Glint Solar: Site search for floating solar installations
“Floating solar is the next big thing within solar energy,” states the Glint Solar website. The Norwegian company focuses on “floating solar”, i.e. solar power systems that float on containers filled with air.
Floating solar panels have several advantages: it saves space on land, and the solar cells are cooled by the water, which increases their energy efficiency. Especially on artificial water surfaces, such as water treatment plants or still waters in quarries, coastal regions or lakes, floating solar systems can offer a good alternative. However, the search for a suitable location has so far been very laborious and time-consuming.
Satellite data on solar radiation, wind, weather and waves
This is where the company from Norway comes in. Using ESA satellite imagery, Glint Solar is creating a feasibility analysis based on site-specific data to facilitate the siting of new photovoltaic installations. Project managers should thus receive reliable data about the respective conditions and the nature of a body of water.
The images provide information on solar radiation, basic weather data and information on site-specific shade, wind, waves, water fluctuations and air pollution. The Site Evaluator Engine (SEE), the company’s analysis tool, matches the site-specific data with Glint Solar’s database and produces a report that ranks installation options with estimated yield, cost of installation and how long it will take to see a return on financial investment.
This method is intended to promote the expansion of renewable energies. Glint Solar is supported by a funding programme of the ESA in Norway (Business Incubation Centre Norway) and a funding programme of the Norwegian government (Innovation Norway).
Solarmapper: An interactive map for site analysis for solar installations in the southwest of the USA
Similar to Glint Solar, the US company Solarmapper focuses on solar energy, but for solar systems that are installed on land. On an interactive map, users can collect various information that is important for the selection of a suitable location. On different map layers, information about land use and previous solar energy projects, for example from the programme of the Bureau of Land Management (an agency of the US Department of the Interior that takes care of the management and economic utilisation of public land) is displayed. For now, information is only available for the American Southwest.
The maps are available free of charge and can be downloaded and printed. The web application is funded by the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy of the U.S. Department of Energy and the Bureau of Land Management. It was developed by Argonne National Laboratory in collaboration with the Solar Energy Industries Association.
The installation of photovoltaic systems on water or on land is always associated with an intervention in nature and the ecosystem. It is therefore all the more important that the locations where such systems are installed are chosen carefully and on the basis of detailed data. Working with satellite images, like in these two examples, could help make future solar installations more efficient, successful and overall more sustainable.
This article is part of the RESET Special Feature “Satellites for Sustainable Development”. Click here to explore all of the articles in the series.